Chinese cities are revving up the construction of new terminals and facilities – and seeking to grab any opportunity to poach airlines and flyers.
That was the case earlier this week when air traffic was snarled for two consecutive days after protests spilled into Hong Kong airport, one of the biggest aviation hubs in the Asia-Pacific region.
The operators of Shanghai’s Pudong Airport offered to waive fees when stranded passengers needed to change bookings or decided to cancel trips to Hong Kong, or opted to transit via the city in southern China.
The city’s largest carrier, China Eastern, has also been swift in launching summer promotions with deep discounts to woo flyers and tourists heading for overseas destinations, as many mainland travelers are unsure if it is safe to stop over in Hong Kong.
Straddling the midpoint of China’s coastline, Shanghai also serves as a more convenient transit hub for passengers from inland provinces, as well as others from Southeast Asia heading to North America, as services between Pudong and cities in Canada and the US can take “shortcuts” above the Pacific, while flights from Hong Kong may have to fly over the Arctic Ocean.
Shanghai is set to open new satellite terminals – some of the largest in the world – at Pudong International Airport next month.
Two new concourses known as S1 and S2 have sweeping glass curtains and spacious column-free halls. They are connected by high-speed automatic people movers to existing terminals and aim to provide faster transfers to the city.
The sprawling, H-shaped terminals boast a gross floor area of 622,000 square meters, which took an army of 8,000 workers less than three years to build. They have 83 airbridges and 125 “aprons” to help alleviate over-crowding at Terminal 1 and 2.
Officials say the new facilities will help the airport, which has five runways, to handle 110 million passengers annually by the mid-2020s.
Passengers can check-in at one of the two existing terminals then take a three-minute ride to the central arcade of S1 and S2.
A cobweb of tunnels beneath the new concourses and runways provides shortcuts for luggage, shuttle and service vehicles to and from existing terminals.
To build these tunnels, workers had to dig overnight and build temporary taxiways to avoid interrupting operations of the airport as a whole, which sees 200,000 passengers flying in and out on any given day.
Shanghai also has another airport, Hongqiao, that mainly serves domestic flights and short-haul services to the rest of Asia.
Together the two hubs handled over 117 million passengers in 2018, up 5.2%, making Shanghai the world’s fifth-busiest gateway after London, New York, Tokyo and Atlanta – ahead of Hong Kong, Singapore and Beijing’s Capital International Airport.